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Daniel Wilco | | March 8, 2019

The NCAA bracket regions where more upsets happen than any other

Loyola Chicago's road to the Final Four

If there’s one thing the NCAA Tournament is known for, it’s, well, madness. When the first round begins, 64 teams enter and less than a month later, only one will walk out as a champion.

What does this mean? Upsets. Lots, and lots, of upsets.

That’s nothing new. If anything, upsets are synonymous with the month of March. But where are those upsets most likely to occur?

Other than 2011, when the Southeast and Southwest regionals made a one-time appearance, we’ve had the same four regionals for the past 11 years: East, West, South and Midwest. And looking at the tournament history for those past 12 years gives us some interesting insights:

  East West South Midwest
2018 4 (1) 4 (3) 9 (4) 3 (2)
2017 5 (3) 3 (3) 2 (1) 4 (2)
2016 4 (2) 4 (2) 4 (2) 7 (5)
2015 5 (3) 2 (1) 3 (2) 2 (1)
2014 5 (2) 3 (1) 7 (4) 5 (4)
2013 5 (1) 8 (5) 5 (3) 2 (2)
2012 2 (0) 4 (1) 4 (3) 7 (4)
2011 4 (2) 3 (0) N/A N/A
2010 7 (4) 4 (1) 3 (2) 6 (2)
2009 3 (1) 4 (0) 2 (1) 6 (3)
2008 2 (0) 4 (3) 1 (0) 6 (5)
2007 4 (0) 2 (1) 2 (0) 4 (2)
AVERAGE 4.2 (1.6) 3.8 (1.8) 3.8 (2.0) 4.7 (2.9)
PERCENT 27.8% (10.6%) 25.0% (11.7%) 25.5% (13.3%) 31.5% (19.4%)

For starters, if you’re a top-ranked team, cross your fingers that you don’t end up in the Midwest. Over the past 12 years, almost one third of all games in the Midwest regional have been upsets (any lower-ranked team defeating a higher-ranked team) — the most of any regional. What's more, almost one fifth of games have been major upsets (an upset with a seed differential of five or more).

RELATED: How do seeds perform in the Final Four?

On the flip side is the West regional, where only 25 percent of the 180 games in the past 12 years have been upsets — the least among all regionals.

The craziest any regional has gotten in the past 12 years was last year, when the South decided to have no rules. Out of the region's 15 games, nine were upsets, and four of those were major upsets.

It started off with the most shocking game in NCAA tournament history, as 16-seed UMBC beat 1-seed Virginia. Throw in a 13-seed upset for fun, then watch as 11-seed Loyola-Chicago becomes just the fourth 11-seed to make the Final Four in the 34-year history of the tournament. 

The West in 2018 saw some chaos as well, with eight upsets in its 15 games. No. 12 seed Mississippi, No. 13 seed La Salle and No. 14 seed Harvard all wreaked havoc on brackets by pulling off first-round wins. In the Round of 32, No. 9 seed Wichita State took down AP No. 1 Gonzaga, then punched its ticket to the Final Four with a 70-66 win over No. 2 Ohio State in the Elite Eight.

That year was one of three that saw five major upsets in one regional. The other two were in 2016 and 2008, both in the Midwest regional. The Midwest in 2016 saw No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee shock No. 2 seed Michigan State and Syracuse become the first No. 10 seed to ever reach the Final Four. In 2008, the Midwest regional was the stage upon which a little-known guard named Steph Curry took his No. 10 seed Davidson Wildcats all the way to the Elite Eight.

But as fun as upsets are, a perfect regional is also something to marvel at. The closest we've come in the past 11 years was in 2008's South regional, where the only upset of its 15 games came when No. 5 seed Michigan State took down No. 4 seed Pittsburgh 65-54 in the Round of 32. Thrilling.

In the end, does the name of the regional a team ends up in really have any bearing on their fate? Probably not. But if there's one thing the NCAA Tournament has taught us, it's that probablys matter little in March.

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